East Grand Forks State of the City 2017
Publication date 2017-04-18
Usage Public Domain Mark 1.0
Welcome to the East Grand Forks State of the City Address. Thank you for attending, and for your support of East Grand Forks.
Thank you to Kimberly Strom and Barry Wilfahrt of the Grand Forks – East Grand Forks Chamber of Commerce for your work putting this together. I would also like to thank Keith, Corey, and others in the Water and Light department who did the audio, video, and technical production. Thank you Megan, David, Department Heads and other city staff members who helped and who are featured in the video segments you will be seeing shortly. Thank you to the City Council members and all who have been patient with me as I work to get up to speed in my new role as Mayor. Thank you to the corporate sponsors who helped with the costs of putting this together.
I would like to give a special welcome to:
Northland Community and Technical College President Dennis Bona
UND President Mark Kennedy
At this time, I would like to invite City Council President Mark Olstad to come forward to make a few comments.
Right after the election last fall, Barry from the Chamber asked me if I would like to do a State of the City Address. I said, “absolutely, but could we wait a few months so I can figure out the state of the city before I talk about it?” He thought that was a good idea.
With the theme, “Mindful of the past, Grateful for the present, Excited for the Future”, this is a perfect time to stop and appreciate the hard work and dedication of all who have come before us to make East Grand Forks the city we love. As we consider what we appreciate about this place, we develop a vision of where we want to go from here, and create a plan to get there.
East Grand Forks was founded in 1887. This whole territory was pretty wild back then, and I am told that East Grand Forks was no exception. During the Prohibition from 1920 to 1933, we had the nickname “Little Chicago” because of the wild nightlife, bootlegging, and certain other criminal activity that was going on. It’s probably a good thing I wasn’t alive back then, because I might be unelectable if I had lived through that time.
For many years our community grew as most Midwestern towns, and things went along smoothly. There was a significant flood fight in 1966, and another in 1979, but we were always up to the challenge. I was a senior in high school in 1979, and I will never forget how our city leaders, city employees, contractors, and community members all rallied to save our city. It was pretty thrilling.
I think that’s why we felt like we had things under control in the spring of 1997, exactly 20 years ago. We were given a crest prediction of 49 feet, the same as the flood we kept out in 1979. As waters passed 50 feet we were OK. At 51 feet, things didn’t look too good. As the level neared 52 feet, the flood waters proved to be too much. As you may recall, the eventual crest that year was slightly over 54 feet.
Most of us remember where we were when we came to the realization that our city was going to completely flood. According to my memory, 20 years ago today, I was volunteering to build and maintain a dike along Timberline Court in the South end of East Grand Forks. I was given an orange hat to wear to signify that I was the contact for that section of dike if the Army Corps needed to talk to someone.
In the middle of that stressful time, a young man who lived in the neighborhood wanted to talk. I would say he was in his early 20’s. He walked up to me and asked, “Are you one of them City Employees?” I said, “Yes, as a matter of fact, I am”. I think he may have enjoyed a few beverages of the intoxicating variety prior to our visit so there wasn’t too much hope of reasoning with him. Then he asked, “Oh yah, if you’re a city employee, then where are your buddies, asleep in the city pickup?” I said, “As a matter of fact, they are”. Then I asked, “What time is it anyways, if it’s 1:00 it’s time for me to trade places with them”. Then I asked him if he had a shovel in his garage that I could borrow so I could have something to lean on. It didn’t quite seem like the time to convince him that I was an Optometrist volunteering my time to help save his neighborhood and our city.
Later that afternoon, as Civil Defense sirens sounded, a representative of the US Army Corps of Engineers informed me that we needed to leave the area immediately. He let me know that there was a wall of water coming along the back of the levee from a breech that had taken place by the Louis Murray Bridge, and that soon the entire area would fill with flood water. By then all bridge approaches out of the area were flooded. I rode out on an army truck, leaving my truck on high ground that wasn’t high enough—my truck was totaled. The next day the remaining residents of the Point were airlifted by helicopter.
Of course, our flood story doesn’t end there. Today we have the security of a flood control system designed, built, and certified according to the specifications of the US Army Corps of Engineers. We have investment taking place all over our community as people are proud of their homes and businesses. We have recreational opportunities for every season. We have education and employment potential greater than ever in our history. Add to that all that our suburb, Grand Forks, North Dakota has to offer, and we have to admit that we are truly blessed.
If you enjoy living, working, or visiting East Grand Forks, and if you enjoy the services provided by the city, then you owe a great deal of thanks to our city employees. I am proud of every one of them—for the work they do and the way they do it. That’s why I want to share with you in the form of video segments, what our city departments have accomplished recently, and what they are planning to do in the near future.
Let’s hear from David Murphy, our city Administrator, and Karla Anderson, our Finance Director.
City Administrator Clip
Quality of life begins with Public Safety. Recently there has been a focus on illegal drugs in our community. In this regard I would like to speak to parents. If you are parents of a young person who has been caught up in the drug problem, we are with you. You are part of our community—and our hearts ache with you. If you are parents who think that your son or daughter would never do such a thing, think again. This is an epidemic that could affect any one of us at any time. Let’s reach out in love to these grieving families and not in judgment. We are one community, and tomorrow it could be our family that is involved.
To our law enforcement officers who are working to clean up this problem—thank you. There are consequences for our actions, and sometimes love is tough. Thanks for holding us accountable.
As part of Public Safety, our Fire Department is constantly on alert to respond to any medical or fire emergency in our city. We also have cooperative agreements in place with the neighboring townships to provide these services. With shared equipment and shared firefighters, this relationship is beneficial to both parties.
Let’s hear from our Police and Fire Departments:
Police Department Clip
Fire Department Clip
Where would we be as a city without water to drink, power to operate our homes and businesses, streets to drive on, proper treatment of sewage, and removal of our garbage?
Let’s hear from our Water and Light Department and from Public Works:
Water and Light Clip
Public Works Clip
One of the great features of our city is our schools. While they are autonomous from the city, there is a lot of cooperation between us.
The Northland Community and Technical College has its own “State of the College” address each year, so we did not ask them to contribute video. Maybe next year we will hear from them too. And of course, UND is a huge part of educating our young people.
Let’s hear from our schools:
EGF Schools Clip
EGF Construction Drone Clip
Sacred Heart Clip
Riverside Christian School Clip
Speaking of schools, I once had a 5th grade teacher named Mrs. Brown that was awfully mean. My wife and I were in the same class, and I once mentioned to her that Mrs. Brown sure was a mean teacher. My wife responded that she was actually really nice. We had quite a disagreement over this, until I got to know Mrs. Brown as an adult, and in fact, she is extremely nice. It turns out that the only reason I thought she was mean is because I caused problems in her classroom and she had to always straighten me out. Because my wife Ros never caused a problem, she found Mrs. Brown to be nice.
Our City Planner Nancy Ellis is a lot like Mrs. Brown. If you work within zoning and building codes, all is well. But if you step out of line, look out.
Nancy and our EDA Director Paul Gorte are both great to work with. They are pro-business, pro-residential development, and pro-East Grand Forks.
Let’s hear from our EDA Director and our City Planner:
Economic Development Clip
City Planner Clip
The city, with the Library Board’s guidance, maintains the Campbell Library building, covers the cost of staffing and general operation. Most of the programming is supported by grants and donations, such as the generous grant from American Crystal Sugar to sponsor Summer Reading, R.A.L.F. (Really Awesome Library Fun) and Tinker Town this year. Teenage and adult volunteers assist with hosting, tutoring, and backup for activities. Without these kinds of support, our library would have to cut back on activities and events.
The Parks and Recreation Department deals with all of our parks, the Greenway, the arenas, the Resurrection Cemetery, the Senior Citizen Center, and our youth park board programs, along with many other activities.
Let’s hear from our Library Director and our Parks and Recreation Director:
Parks and Rec Clip
As I indicated earlier, I am honored to work with our city employees. I have seen our people go above and beyond what is expected to give excellent service to our residents. They serve with kindness, professionalism, and thoroughness. They take charge of projects with a high level of competence, making it a joy to partner with them.
Now let’s take a look ahead:
Our City Administrator David Murphy, our Department Heads, and the City Council spent a day in early February identifying our values and laying out plans.
We identified our Core Values as:
Committed to operating according to these values, we set goals for the next few years. These goals are:
1. Plan for Projects With Funding Identified
a. We will be intentional about gathering public input on these items
b. We will make sure that all funding is in place before we start a large project
2. Construct a South End Neighborhood Bridge
a. Work with the City of Grand Forks, Polk County, Grand Forks County, the state of Minnesota, the state of North Dakota, the Federal Government, and the Metropolitan Planning Organization to take action on the funding, design, and completion of a South End neighborhood bridge
b. That will likely mean also working to facilitate the construction of a bridge at Merrifield Road, since the MPO plan calls for this to be accomplished before a South End neighborhood bridge is built, unless that plan is amended
3. Examine and consider revising our Special Assessment Policy
a. We want to make sure that the process is fair—that the assessments carry to the ones getting the benefit, and that their properties are clearly improved by the added infrastructure
b. We want to make sure that the process is as streamlined and user-friendly as possible
4. Bring Financial Reserves to Target
a. Reserves had become depleted over the past ten years
b. Reserves have been replenished in each of the last two years
c. We are very close to a minimum target, and will continue adding until we reach a responsible amount
5. Expand the Civic Center West and Refurbish the VFW Arena
a. We have some space challenges, along with aging refrigeration systems in our arenas
b. We will prioritize and perform the necessary maintenance and upgrades to these facilities
6. Build Trust
a. Public trust is foundational to quality of life in a community
b. Public trust is a byproduct of many things. It increases when we ask questions and listen to community members
c. It increases when we deliver services according to their priorities at a value
d. It increases when the people can see into and are involved in the decision-making process
7. Strengthen the City/School Bond
a. This includes all of our schools
b. It includes coordinating legislative efforts, sharing infrastructure, and planning events together
c. It includes preparing our young people for life, and building a community in which they want to stay
8. Master Plan for Parks, Greenway, Trail System, State Recreation Area
a. We will pay special attention to the features of our own park and Greenway system
b. We will consider our connection to the North Dakota system and also the rural river corridors that connect to our Greenway from all directions
9. Amend City Charter
a. The City Charter is kind of like our Constitution in that it guides the decisions we make, the Ordinances we pass, and the policies we set
b. Amending the City Charter must be done according to a specific process that must be followed exactly.
c. There are several sections that will be considered for revision due to changes that have taken place over the last several years
10. Upgrade City Facilities
a. We will take a proactive approach to the maintenance of our buildings
b. Future needs will be identified, prioritized, and funded, rather than trying to do maintenance like putting out brush fires as they pop up
And so we are Mindful of the past, Grateful for the present, and Excited for the Future.
I am honored to serve as Mayor of East Grand Forks. I look forward to working with our City Council, City Administrator, Department Heads, City Staff, and volunteers to guide this community into the future.
We need all of your help. Let us know how we can improve our service, and by all means, get involved. There are many ways to serve within the City itself, and in the community in general.
I appreciate spending this time with you, and I look forward to visiting with each of you in the future.
Thank you, and enjoy the rest of your day.
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